*in these particular areas.
There is no denying that Japanese culture and Australian culture are poles apart. Where Australia is laid-back and simple, Japan is wonderfully weird and over-the-top. Where Australia is endearingly rough-around-the-edges, Japan is pristine and polished. And while I love Straya, I’m taking the opportunity to outline some key areas where we can probably (definitely) learn (read: copy) a thing or two from our Japanese friends.
They are literally everywhere, and they sell everything, from soft drinks, to both hot and iced coffee, to instant noodles, cigarettes, alcohol, icecream, umbrellas and neckties. It’s revolutionary. There is literally one vending machine per 23 people in Japan! In my 1.1km walk to uni alone, I pass more than 16 vending machines; approximately one every 70 metres.
7-11 here is like that tent from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; it’s tiny, but it can, and does, hold literally everything you could ever need. Freshly baked breads and home-style meals are delivered each morning, they’re practically a fully-fledged liquor store, and the cheap machine coffee doesn’t even taste like death. You can even pay your bills in store! Plus, again, they’re everywhere.
It’s totally normal to bike or walk everywhere, and when you do need to use public transport, it’s quick, clean and punctual, the exact anti-thesis of Translink.
Sure, sorting your rubbish into burnables, plastics, PET bottles, cans and glass can be pretty bloody annoying, but it’s fairly easy to do and environmentally friendly so I can get behind that.
I’ve literally forgotten what a cold toilet seat feels like. Look, are all those extras necessary? Of course not. But they’re convenient.
Harmony between history, nature, and urbanity
I literally walk past a temple everyday on the way to uni. It’s not uncommon to see a small Shinto Shrine on the roof of multi-storey offices, nor is it unusual to see a Buddhist temple’s towering pagoda peeking out from behind tall buildings. Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as 17 UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites, all of which are within about an hour of where I live. I’ve been here 3 months and am still continually astounded by this city’s ability to have its history and culture coexisting so seamlessly and beautifully with its urbanity.
Cool side note story: I had the unreal privilege of dragging myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4am to signal the start of morning prayers by ringing the bell at Nishihonganji Temple, one of the 17 World Heritage sites, a ritual usually only performed by the head monk. A small group of my friends and I were only permitted to do so as a part of celebrations around the passing down of the temple’s custodianship from father to son, an event that only occurs maybe once every 50 years. It was such a serene and awe-inspiring experience, and the most quintessentially Japanese thing I’ve ever done.
It’s so clean*
I never see litter (although I have no idea how, considering it’s near impossible to find a bloody rubbish bin), I’ve forgotten what mud looks like, and I have my suspicions that leaves here spontaneously combust if they’re not swept up within 5 minutes of hitting the ground (though I’m yet to prove this theory, because the leaf sweepers here do a fantastic job).
*This does not apply to my dorm kitchen. A chicken coup is more hygienic.
Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia, and doesn’t even hold a candle to the kinds of amusement parks they have here. I recently went to Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, and the attractions there are fully immersive (Harry Potter World and the Hogwarts Castle were UNREAL), and expertly marry production with adrenaline-inducing rides, unlike anything we have in Australia. It was legitimately one of the best days of my life, in no small part because I touched a minion’s butt (it was an accident, but I’m not apologising really).
It’s the best. Don’t start me.
Eating out is cheap
I can get an epic bowl of ramen for 800¥, or plethora of ridiculously sized meal sets for under 1000¥, where the same could easily cost me double at home. Ingredients, on the other hand, will cost you an arm and a leg, and quite possibly your soul.
Again, everywhere. I live for it.
While I do love all of these wacky Japanese things, I am keen to return home to the good-ole Australian sense of humour, Western confectionery (they are OBSESSED with red bean paste here, and anko is one of my least favourite things ever, right up there with manspreading and the shrinking size of Pringles chips), PayPass, non-compulsory class attendance, and of course…
…sensible smoking legislation.